Anniversary celebrations just keep happening in this 2017 year, which is evident in an article from “Memories and Dreams,” Cooperstown’s annual opening day magazine, by local Penfield writer Scott Pitoniak called “Over There — and Over Here” (Vol. 39, No. 2). It has been 100 years since this amazing Opening Day on April 11, 1917, which just so happened to be the declaration of war against Germany by President Woodrow Wilson. The greats were playing with the Red Sox and the Yankees and names like Hank Gowdy, Casey Stengel and Ty Cobb, to name a few.
The point of this article is to share the response of the baseball world with the soldiers and military effort during 1917 and 1918. The teams would come on the ball field with bats removed and replaced with rifles over their shoulders honoring those that were fighting for freedom. The great American pastime had become a call to glory and honor with respect from the great American League and MLB. As the players would carry the rifles by a reviewing stand lead by a drill sergeant standing in front of the major general of the U.S. Army, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” reverently called the national anthem, was played by a military band. The fans jumped to their feet, cheering without hesitation. This tradition remained as the country showed support for the baseball players and the game. More and more, major league players joined up and fought. There was a requirement to be drafted or join, and if not joining, working in a field that supported the war effort.
An All-American game, played during a time of turbulence, joining the efforts to unite the country and bring patriotism to its highest point, this was American baseball. So many times, baseball winners and series winners were used as questions to make sure the enemy would not infiltrate. This was a form of identification in the field of battle.
This article by Scott Pitoniak gave me new respect and interest in the all-American sport of baseball. Truly a unifier and motivator during the most horrific war of all times, the war to end all wars. World War I brought out the worst in the enemy with chemical weapons, and brought out the best in partnership and unity against a common enemy.
What does this have to do with Palmyra history, you might ask? The Garlock baseball teams, to the active baseball teams, the Palmyra baseball team and all those that followed this great sport, brought happiness, fellowship and unity. The game of baseball is a unifier among companies, communities, states and even government congressman and senators. As the players stood with their hats over their hearts, and the fans with hands over their hearts with pride showed although different, competitive teams, they were all Americans. Thanks to the sport of baseball for its leadership and example and honoring our American tradition.